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  • Sarah C Awad

"Inception: Beat Saber" was a flop at the box office

Me, playing Beat Saber

Despite my love for games and game design, I am just plain bad at playing them. Forever a last place finisher, my only moment to shine at the arcade is when I bust out some moves with rhythm games. This backstory inspired my pursuit in transferring affordances of Beat Saber.

Beatsaber is a VR rhythm game whose title pretty much speaks for itself; the player, donning the VR headset and controls, the player (or maybe, dancer?) smashes colored boxes in various directions to the rhythm of a song, all while physically ducking under digital walls and dodging other obstacles.

Beat Saber’s affordances are simplistic ones based in color, sound, and tactile cues. As the boxes approach the player, they each display a white arrow ( indicating the direction the strike should move) or a center dot (indicating any strike is applicable). A smashing sound denotes a correct strike, and an airy whoosh sound will indicate an incorrectly placed strike. The right side saber held by the player is red and the left blue, matching the colors of the boxes to indicate arm position. These foundational affordances allow the game to be easily picked up and understood, providing slight redundancy in affordances through cueing the same actions activating different senses.

My interest in Beat Saber really came from the exploration of what felt like a double-Inception-kinda-ironic display of making a physical, new tech game even more physical and even more analog.

The prototype I created transformed Beat Saber into a 2 person experience: the player and the “crew member.” The crew member acted as the game: hitting play on the music, throwing boxes, and hollering strike directions. Absurd, absolutely.

Materials were minimal. With more time I would have loved to use foam cubes, but modified by using 4X4X4 gift boxes. Given that I am a cosplayer, I just had on hand two lightsabers, and got creative developing my accessories and backdrop with my various unconventional toys and BFA in Studio Art.

The Beat Boxes

the majestic toy lightsabers, which are way more fun than they should be

The biggest challenge was how the arrows had to change due to the 3d movement of the gift boxes; there would be no guarantee that the crew member would get a successful toss that could indicate the correct direction. There was no way arrows on the boxes would be visible in motion, so I ended up with the crew member calling out a direction as the box flew toward the player.

A big part of beat saber is the costume; donning the headset and wielding glowing swords, the player is essentially cosplaying as a Tron character training for battle. This feeling of becoming someone else unrooted in reality contributes to the game’s immersive draw. I tried to maintain that important aspect of the experience through using flashing lightsabers and wearing accessories that mimic the character of the original. I also used my galaxy machine and holiday lights to add to the atmosphere. The look of the final video was probably the only successful aspect of this recreation.

Which is where we get to showtime, aka the winning video on America's Funniest Home videos.

If the video does not speak for itself, some takeaways:

  • This was a classic, sounds good on paper but...

  • The sunglasses were a fashionable representation of the headset, but sunglasses in the dark does not work well with needing to see boxes flying at you.

  • More hands would have resulted in a more organized-and potentially more successful-final product; that was too much for one person.

  • It was very fun, and I recommend everyone try it

So, as I said in the video "that was wild..." But, I definitely have my next theme for a party!

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